Tamir Rice Shooting Labeled ‘Objectively Reasonable’

Two separate investigations into the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice on November 22, 2014, are in, and both agree the shooting was justified. The case was one among a string of shootings involving young black men in America, but Rice’s death struck a particular chord because of his youth, and the heartlessness of the officers involved — they didn’t move to provide first aid after the shooting, instead allowing Rice to lie untreated. The conclusions in the investigations — which will be weighed in a decision to indict — fall in line with a repeated record of giving officers a pass for shooting black youth, and it’s adding to the growing anger over law enforcement practices in the United States. It also highlights the fact that the United States needs top down reforms in police policy, training and implementation.

In fact, one government agency already set out strong recommendations for addressing the police shooting epidemic in the United States. The United States Department of Justice has repeatedly audited police departments and made recommendations, focusing on departments like the notoriously racist St. Louis Police Department and policing in Ferguson, Mo. Many of the recommendations made as a result of such investigations are easy to implement nationwide. Repeated cases like Rice’s show that law enforcement will consistently have each others’ backs in shooting cases, and in order to address a pattern of police violence, the United States needs to be more proactive.

There are many ways to approach the situation, but three recommendations may be key.

1) Changing the venue for investigations

In the civilian world, major trials are often moved out of the area due to concerns that juries may have been influenced by local news, discussions within their communities, and other factors. A trial can’t be considered truly fair and impartial in such cases because jurors may have formed their own opinions before even arriving in the courtroom, predisposing them to support the defense or the prosecution. Requests for a change of venue can benefit one or both parties in a case, and reduce the risk of a costly mistrial.

Moving venues seems like a natural decision for police investigations. When departments are investigating themselves or working closely with the agencies they normally cooperate with on a daily basis, they have an incentive to exonerate themselves. For example, a prosecutor gathering evidence about a police shooting might not want to penalize an officer who’s just helped her close a rape case, or a sergeant she knows personally. Thus, she may not look as closely at a situation, or she may be more inclined to gloss over damning evidence.

2) Changing the investigators

The United States doesn’t ask accused criminals to investigate themselves, and police departments shouldn’t be subjected to special treatment. Third party oversight is a given in the case of most other cases of malfeasance in the civilian world, and it should be in policing as well. In addition to moving venues, police departments need to be investigated by civilian oversight committees — with the ability to consult law enforcement as needed — rather than law enforcement-friendly investigators who may be biased in favor of officers even when a case comes from out of the area.

Such investigators can receive specific advice on police training and how police respond to a variety of situations, in addition to detailed overviews of DOJ recommendations to determine whether departments were implementing them at the time of a shooting or other use of force incident. They should also have access to records that might provide evidence of racial profiling and information about the moral character of officers — many involved in police shootings have a record of excessive force.

3) Changing policies

As yet, the Department of Justice has been involved in multiple large-scale investigations and policy recommendations, but it’s time to get more assertive. While policing is often regarded as an issue of regional concern, it’s clearly something that needs to be regulated on a federal level to ensure consistent, fair justice across departments. By stepping in, the DOJ can make its recommendations mandatory, instead of just optional, and can offer training for police supervisors to help them implement these mandates.

By creating a mandatory framework for handling interactions with the public, the DOJ can create a system that will reduce police shootings in the first place, which is the ultimate goal. While tougher standards on how investigations are conducted may encourage officers to be more judicious about how they use force, with the threat of serious consequences for failing to exercise due caution, it’s training that will help officers make well-considered responses. Just like many members of the military, police receive training that’s designed to be instinctual, allowing their training to kick in when they need to make decisions quickly. Unfortunately, right now that training tells them to shoot first and ask questions later, at considerable cost to America’s black youth.

Photo Credit: The All-Nite Images

64 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill3 years ago

If that kid had put the gun down, he would still be alive. The cops had no way of knowing that his gun was a toy. It looks exactly like a real gun.

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Sue H.
Sue H3 years ago

Heartbreaking to think that Anyone could possibly see this act as "objectively reasonable".:(

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Marc P.
Marc P3 years ago

Don Z and Kathryn I were Nazis in their past lives.

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Marc P.
Marc P3 years ago

Don Z.: It is you who are the blithering idiot. The 12 year old kid was at a park with an Airsoft TOY you fucking child murderer worshiping bootlick. FIRST: Guns are LEGAL. the mere act of possessing a gun is NOT a valid reason to shoot anyone and I don't care how much you hate guns. SECOND: ANYONE (Including these prosecutors) who can reasonably justify this murder in their own minds is a person who is bereft of any moral compunction, void of any common decency, and as far as I am concerned, the enemy of the citizens of this country. You make me sick.

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Danuta Watola
Danuta W3 years ago

Thanks for sharing

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David Youmans
David Youmans3 years ago

Don Z and Kathryn I...

The problem with your comments, is the fact that Tamir Rice never pointed the TOY gun at the cops. In fact, he never would have had a chance to, if he wanted to, because he was shot without warning, and the TOY gun was stuck in his beltline. They never gave the kid a chance, but just gunned him down without giving him any chance.

Loehmann was terminated from a previous job as a cop, for unsuitability, and should never have been hired by the Cleveland police department. Some of the fault for the kid's MURDER should be placed on the Cleveland police, who should have taken notice of the fact that he'd been terminated, before allowing him to commit the heinous crime of murdering a child!

You people have got to stop making excuses for the abuses of the police, because as long as people are willing to justify the unjustifiable, the police will continue to kill, when it's completely unnecessary...

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Kathryn Irby
Past Member 3 years ago

When a kid points a toy gun, which looks exactly like a real gun, at a cop, it is justified!!! I'm not crazy about cops, but they aren't mind readers, and in such cases as this one, they must either kill or BE killed! Tamir Rice's parents should have taught him better than to go around, pointing such a gun that looked as real as that one did, at anyone, plain and simple.

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Jonathan Harper
Jonathan Harper3 years ago

Noted

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Pat P.
Pat P3 years ago

DON Z. Your attempted rationalization for Tamir's murder--makes you the moron! Have you ever heard of an attempt to de-escalate the situation, which never seems to be the approach by our law enforcement? How about not driving right up next to the boy, opening the door and shooting him?

There are just too many people in this country who are accepting egregious mistreatment and murder by out-of-control, psychopathic cops, as justified and acceptable. No wonder other more civilized developed countries think we have gone over the edge of decency, compassion, morality and justice. Of course, our law enforcement problems are only one of many that shows our lunacy!


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